SECURITY AND SCANDALS: WHAT’S NEXT IN THE LINE?

The NSA Restricted

Justice might finally be served.

The first week of February witnessed the approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) of two of the president’s proposed changes as for the future functioning of the NSA.

FISC has now approved the proposal that, unless there is a “true emergency,” the collected telephony metadata can be mined only after the court itself has determined there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of international terrorism. Previously, that determination of reasonableness was being made by the agency itself. Additionally, any query into the metadata is now limited to extending only “two hops” from the targeted information — think of it as degrees of separation — instead of the previous three, thus narrowing the scope.

A Spying Manual, by E. Snowden

As for Edward Snowden’s revelations concerning the NSA activities, this information was simple enough to obtain.

Some sources claim that Snowden used web crawler software to “scrape” data from the NSA’s computer networks; the process being quite automated. Besides, Snowden’s attack wasn’t sophisticated at all. And it was hardly the first, as it came three years after the WikiLeaks disclosures showed the vulnerability of government networks.

Snowden was working on the inside as a tech contractor, a systems administrator conducting routine maintenance work. He found that while the agency had strong protection against outside attacks, it had rudimentary protections against inside attacks. The NSA declined to comment on these statements.

Great Figures Join the Great Movement

The Internet community cannot keep silence while freedoms and rights are suppressed.

February 11, Reddit, Mozilla and Tumblr (Yahoo) teamed up with more than 5,300 other technology companies, human rights organizations and media properties to protest the NSA’s mass surveillance program. Dubbed “The Day We Fight Back,” the protest includes unsurprising participants such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); as well as Upworthy and Thunderclap.

According to the official site of the initiative, participants will be asked to “install banners to encourage their visitors to fight back against surveillance” — not as extreme a reaction as the internet blackouts of services like Wikipedia back in SOPA days. The overwhelming goal of The Day We Fight Back is to raise awareness. And it’s more disappointing to see major SOPA/PIPA protesters, like Google and Wikipedia, sitting this one out.

The System Fights Back

Naturally, there are counterstrikes from the system.

A secret British spy unit allegedly turned Anonymous’ preferred cyberattack technique against the “hacktivist” group. The UK’s Joint Threat Research Intelligent Group (JTRIG) launched a “distributed denial of service” (DDOS) attack against Internet chat rooms where members of Anonymous collaborated, according to NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News. The DDOS attack proved effective, reducing targeted chat rooms’ traffic by 80 percent after a month. The British government is the first Western government known to have carried out a DDOS attack, which typically target high-profile sites and services like banks, retail, and government websites.

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Individual Protective Gear

The level of fighting back can be different as well. For instance, it can employ not only complicated hard- & software complexes, but single applications as well.

iCitizen is a startup with the aim of strengthening democracy through a mobile app. It keeps track of political issues you care about and what your elected officials are up to, making it easier to stay up to date and voice your opinions. The company said its daily polls regularly draw over 13,000 votes. Many voters have minimal interaction with the political process outside of elections every 2 to 4 years. iCitizen wants to heighten this weak engagement and inspire action by monitoring and delivering relevant information to your phone, and opening up channels for communication.

One of the challenges for apps like iCitizen is achieving a critical mass of constituents and lawmakers — a significant amount of both are necessary for success. Without enough constituents, lawmakers won’t take the polling seriously. Without enough lawmakers, people won’t feel like their opinions are being heard. iCitizen was launched in November, and its iPhone app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times, with an Android app next in turn.

Besides, there’s one more interesting app called mSpy allowing you to track activities of your kids/employees for the sake of their security and safety. It allows you to read your kid’s Viber and other IMs.

The usage of this app is undertaken with the informed consent of the participants.

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